A Return to Family Devotion


I inch open the door. Two teeners are playing. I’m so happy to see them playing, taking life by the reins. Like they used to. When did life get so serious? 

One’s perched on the other’s back, having turned into some type of cowgirl. The other’s on all fours, and somehow I’m waiting for a “neigh” to bellow out of her mouth. Instead, all contagious laughs, giggles, smiles.



“What?” I nearly fall over laughing.

They jump up, place sweet hands in mine.

It’s bedtime.

“Do y’all want to start reading together through the New-Testament-in-a-year?” I ask the girls, switching gears and interrupting their Lone Ranger and Silver moment. But it’s been weighing heavily on my heart. 

Both nod so eagerly.

Whew! Because I’m going on fumes right now.



And I need to get at least one weight off my heart. Taking something off my shoulders would be nice, too.


We always did pretty good at family devotions when the girls were small. But things shifted somehow. I tried to get them started on Bible Gateway, helping them establish their own routine. No more “we” but God in thee. That went good for a while, but like with all things, discipline tiptoes out the door, and we’re left crumpled on the floor. And that’s a complete disservice to my girls.

I need jumper cables. Um, okay … spurs kicking into my sides.

Because when serious sickness enters your home, even teens can only go on fumes for so long. Anxiety hugs the heart, pinching in the night, demanding conversation.

And one daughter wraps her arms around me. My teetertotter emotions …. “I understand, Mama. Shh. It’s okay.” I adore her motherly way. What gave it away? Hands that I used to hold everywhereonce so tiny with tiny nails that I used to clip with the baby clipperssoothed over my face, wiping away the moisture. Tight hugs. My other daughter gifts me with one, too.

Life has been so busy. Where has my time with them gone?



Is it okay for a mama to admit she’s scared? She’s scared of the present, the past, the future. She’s scared of every day she tried to make it on her own and failed miserably. She’s terrified of the scars etched into her heart from days without holding her Savior’s hand. She’s scared of every reminder, every memory. She wishes for white-out, do-overs, the delete key for her heart. 

What does she yearn for more than anything for her girls? A clean piece of paper, a clean heart. One prepped and ready to type God’s beautiful future, beautiful present on their hearts, to accompany their beautiful pasts.

But we can’t pour out our heart’s desire on that blank page what we aren’t pouring in. The page will be written on, but it won’t be desirous, the Godly way. It’ll never sell.

And when I’m too tired, I’m reminded I’m too tired not to. I’m loading dirty dishes in the dishwaser, and I don’t think I have the stamina to finish, but I will. That’s my disciplined, determined self talking. And I’ll collapse into that bed.

And a brush of wind swirls past me, sweet arms envelope me. “You ready to read our devotion?”

“We better do it now, while I can.” Anxiety only falls away when we fall into the arms of God.

We plop down onto the floor, circle around, maybe hit the couch, maybe climb into my bed …. She takes my phone, hits the Bible Gateway App.



“The verse of the day,” she says, “is Ephesians 4:2‘Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.'” She clicks on “Begin A Reading Plan” and continues right where we left off. “Matthew 20:1-16,” she says. 

Verse 16 ends with, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

We all chuckle. “I used to say that to you when you were small all the time,” I say. “I wanted you to be giving. It feels good to give.” And I didn’t want them to fight. But my version usually came out like“If you want to be first, you have to be last.” And that’s where I might blow a raspberry, if I were that kind of mama.

fishing in the swimming pool … caught a plastic fish each and every time




floaties in the shallow end

They laugh. Then nod.

“I remember, Mama. I say that to all my Sunday school kids,” one daughter admits.

Yes. They haven’t forgotten. Full circle. God is writing on their hearts. The giving has been received. Because when we give, we always receive. An honest servant is always rewarded in time. It might seem like a rough draft, but it’s the real, published deal, where purchases are final. It’s sitting on the heart-shelf, waiting to be taken, to be given to their friends, anyone blessed enough to receive from their hands, maybe their future kids.

We take the limited time in this life together by the reins.

A return to family devotion.

~~~


Do you have a family devotion? Have you had to take life by the reins recently? 


Stepping Into My Characters’ Shoes


God, what are you doing with my life?

“Do you want to go?”

“Yes, of course.”

My curiosity soars. My novel, work-in-continual-progress, has a scene in this very location. I’d love to go. I need to go. I need to get inside my characters’ heads more, know their hearts. Plant my feet where they planted theirs.

We pass Greenville, Texas, heading into Commercemy novel’s setting and the city I have grown to love. “There’s Karalee’s school,” I say. Wonder where she’s at? What’s she doing? Hard to believe my oldest daughter is there and I’m here. This thing called change is interesting. Our hearts are so intertwined that I feel present with her all the time. Rejoice when she rejoices. Cry when she cries.

We proceed out toward the state park, passing farm after farm. Beautiful Texas, always beautiful to this Texan. 

I gasp. A city limit sign announces “Posey” … Posey, Texas. My heart claps. That’s part of my itty-bitty character’s nickname. I missed that detail on Google Earth. Wow. Unbelievable. 



Believable.

God, you’ve got this thing covered. I know you do. And you’re showing me the signs. Thank you.


We park the vehicle. 

My youngest steps out, branches out, and begins exploring. The one who’s seen devastating hardship. My cancer survivor. She’s discovering shells along the water’s edge. She’s found her niche.

Have I found my niche? I think so. 

My feet hit the ground. I pivot, absorbing the surrounding beauty, standing right where my characters stood. Building their imaginary lives has been sweet. They’ve so obediently taken each action I’ve required of them. Walked when I needed them to walk, erased what I needed them to erase, built what I needed them to build.

God, you stood right where I’m standing. You made all things, and you came hereliving, serving, loving, building, accomplishing, finishingto know me inside out. To know your creation, your people. 

“I could stay here all day,” my daughter says, beaming. 



Stay here all day. That’s it. I made the connection.

God, sometimes I’m slow, but I made the connection.

Walk out on the water. Go exploring. Discover the growth. Through the difficult, the scary, the times of ease, the times of beauty, times of uncertainty, times of seasonal change …

 



When you don’t know what God is doing, do what you love. 

He’s given you love. O Soul Within, find what you love. Do what you love. Continue doing what you love. He gave you a heart, to please, to love, to obey, to build, to follow, to lead, to accomplish, to do the thing He’s called you to.

Step in character with whom God made you to be, into the very shoes He designed for you.

Change is never easy … but proceed.

So ask the hard questions. Get inside God’s head. Yearn to know His heart. 

You are His and He is yours, intertwined. He’s where you are. He rejoices when you rejoice; He surely cries when you cry.

Find that placewith Himwhere you could stay all day. The place to do the living and dying. The place to typeThe Beginning and The End.

Do you want to go?

~~~
How has God been speaking to your heart?


Failing My Mammogram and Pansy Prayers


I never arrived. But there I was. 



I don’t want to meet hardships. But when the insufferable hand is extended, I want to offer a firm handshake. Who offers a pansy handshake? But I may never get there.

I had a huge scare this last week. I received a notice after my mammogram saying I needed to come in for more testing. Diagnostic testing. Another mammogram. Ultrasound. 

My mother is a breast cancer survivor.

Panic overrode my peace. That simple. That difficult. 

I stomped my foot at myself. Shelli, you know you can trust God. 

My mind and my spirit know the right things. This is what I know–God has me covered. There is nothing that happens to me that isn’t allowed by Him. In the surrounding heat, God holds out His mighty hand and covers me. The hand continually covers me. But because we just can’t seem to stay in His intended protection, since the beginning of time, we get burned anyway. Things happen. Disease and bad things exist. If my 13-month old daughter had cancer, I’m certainly at risk. 

Fear wrestled with my faith. In my dreams. In my daydreams. I thought of every “what if” scenario. 

Stupid, stupid, stupid. 

 



Accusations. You were late for your mammogram. How can you remotely encourage others through hardships if you can’t handle this? 

I went in for my second mammogram and ultrasound. “We need a biopsy.”

I cried out to my dear friend from childhood. She’d been praying for me since I found out. I told her I’d been sick, dizzy, sleepless. Where was peace? 

She said, “No more pansy prayers from me, Shelli. I’m praying seriously for you.”

Much needed laughter penetrated my chest cavity. 



A week I wait for the biopsy. 

“This looks like a fibroadenoma type mass. Benign. Tiny. But we can’t be sure.” 

Hope springs alive in my heart. 

My gut feels pierced, my insides covered in pain. I so failed. Man’s word gives me hope. What about God’s word? Hope eternal.

I grab on to His hand that covers me. I peek up at Him. As He lifts me up, my feet flip-flop around barely touching the ground. “God, I trust you. I do. Forgive me. Help me. Let me be okay.” I pray on my face.

The Spirit within says to me, “Say it, Shelli.”

“I don’t know if I can. How did you say it, Lord Jesus? How?”

“Say it, Shelli.” I wrestle with the Spirit within.

I don’t know. “I don’t know that I want to give you approval. I don’t think I can.” I love my girls, I want to be a grandmother one day, and I’m not that tough. I toss and turn in bed. Tears soak my pillow.

“I don’t need your approval.”

I want to pound the pillow. Four mighty words seep out of my mind and heart and mouth, as I choose surrender instead. “Thy. Will. Be. Done.” Tears flood.



Just because you’re covered doesn’t mean you won’t feel the heat. Doesn’t mean you won’t get stings, scrapes, and bruises on your ankles. Doesn’t mean you won’t get beat by flying debris. Doesn’t mean you won’t get wind-burned. But you can believe–it’s a heap lot cooler in the shade of God’s hand. Bearable. You are covered, Shelli. Covered by the blood of the Lamb. 

But no more pansy prayers, Shelli. The way you beg for life … you beg for others.

The phone rang today. “The results are benign.” 

All that flip-flopping around for nothing. Pansy handshake. Faith over failure, Shelli. Not failed faith. How on earth will you survive when you get bad news? One day again, more than likely, you’ll receive bad news. That’s life. But it’s the how. You’ll survive on earth or in heaven because God has you covered. But it’s the how. 

You’ve arrived because of Jesus. But you haven’t arrived. How will you survive? In the now? How? Will you trust? It’s not really for nothing when your flop flips to the In God We Trust side.

No more pansy, Shelli.



“I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my handI who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’” Isaiah 51:16

Thank you, Julie Garmon, for the reminder of this beautiful Scripture.

From Broken to Mended


It’s been pressing on her for a year. Painfully.

That metal piece of whatever you want to call it–expander, though I’ve called it every name in the book that starts with an “e” and ends with an “er”–served its useful purpose. It broke her. It really broke her. Even her allergies improved.

But boy, it was painful. The piece of metal made it hard to eat. She couldn’t feel the roof of her mouth. Did she have any space left in her mouth at all?

It weighed on her heavily for a whole year. A whole year.

“It’ll come off next month.”

“No, it’ll come off next month.”

She sat down … lay back. Hands of relief surround her.




“It’s coming off today. It’s really coming off,” they say.

Feet up.



Relief at last.

Little girl smiles. She feels around in her mouth … space she forgot she had.

“We won’t do anything else today. We’ll give it time to heal–see what movement takes place.”

Little girl jumps up, leaving all behind, to brush her teeth … brush all that was broken … the roof of her mouth … and rinse. Cleansed. 

She feels the cuts–where metal bore down into flesh, impressing, changing. But she can feel. She can feel once again.



Sometimes we have to be broken before we can mend.

Necessary change. And we wonder when we’ll find relief.

And then we hear spoken, “Today’s the day.”

Sometimes we have to fall back into the hands that are capable.

We leave all behind … all behind that hinders, binds, hurts, cuts.

We feel the impressions, the change.

But we can feel. Really feel.


Doubt

Standing in the church parking lot,
with a dear friend, through tears,
she cried, “I’m not sure.”
Only in her twenties,
nothing else mattered in that moment but
her eternal security.
With mascara streaks staining her distressed face,
freedom from doubt was her deepest desire.
**

As a child, I accepted Christ as my Savior.
Details became vague as years progressed.
Did I say the right things?
Did I mean it in my heart?
“Mom, please refresh my mind of the details.” 
Doubt.
 
What does “doubt” mean?
I’m not sure? I don’t know? Maybe; maybe not? 
When we aren’t walking with God, inevitably, doubt creeps in.
God never leaves us, but we often leave Him. 
When we leave God’s side,
we won’t believe what we know is true. 
Doubt.
The doubting drew me closely to God.
He helped me realize –
victory over doubt is achievable.
The cure to doubt is to draw securely to God’s side.
God time.
Since walking with God,
grabbing hold of that relationship offered so many years back,
and delving into His Word …
my heart doesn’t doubt … my heart doesn’t ache for security.
The relationship with your earthly father is a perfect example
(use another relative/friend as an example if you need to) —
 
You know he’s your father.
You communicate.
He’s made it clear you are his.
You don’t doubt it because …
it’s truth …
it’s your life …
it’s who you are …
it’s your relationship …
why would you doubt it?
You don’t have to doubt.
 
**

The word “doubt” seems misspelled, doesn’t it?

What letter doesn’t belong?
“B”
 
When we doubt, like the letter “B” …
there may be a silence in our lives that doesn’t belong –
a lack, a void …
lack of God time …
lack of Father time.
 
The enemy swarms, hiding in shadows, stinging with silent whispers:
“You couldn’t be saved.”
“Could you really be saved?”
“You can’t be sure.”
“You’ll never be sure.”
“You will never be secure.”

Beware.

 
 When we draw securely to God’s side,
without a doubt,
we will be secure.
 
Why?
It’s truth …
it’s your life …
it’s who you are …
it’s your relationship …
why would you doubt it?
You don’t have to doubt.
 
Doubt Only Undermines Biblical Truth
 
Without a shadow of a doubt –
 
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,”
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,
you will be saved.
For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified,
and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
Romans 10:9-10 
Believe.
Be sure.
Be secure.